Montreal Fringe Festival (CBC)
Greetings from the Fringe Theatre Festival touring circuit!
Now, I don't wanna gloat here. But after visiting the lovely - but comparatively small - festivals in Montreal, Ottawa, and London, Ontario, here are five reasons why Winnipeg's fest is so successful:
1. Winnipeg probably has the best Fringe fans on the circuit.
We sell more tickets than any other festival on the circuit, except Edmonton. And Winnipeg fans actually go to shows - about four in five people who attend the Fringe will actually see a show. Compare that to Montreal, where attendance at outdoor Fringe events is nearly double the ticket sales; or mighty Edmonton, where outdoor Fringe attendance is more than four times indoor attendance.
2. A beer tent is a great thing, and not just because of the beer.
When you visit a festival like London's, which has no beer tent (not through lack of trying, but because there's no workable location), you realize how useful a centralized meeting place is for performers to talk to Fringers, and for Fringers to talk with each other about what to see (or not).
3. Media support.
Okay, this sounds entirely self-serving, but it becomes very obvious at other festivals that Winnipeg media (and I don't just mean CBC) take Fringe far more seriously than others. Of course, Winnipeg media covers the Fringe because the aforementioned fans demand it - but media coverage certainly helps in drawing attention to a festival.
4. Timing is everything.
Winnipeg's festivals play relatively nicely with each other - the Winnipeg Fringe gets a lot of attention because it doesn't have to compete with other festivals at the same time. Compare that with Montreal, where two other theatre festivals ran at the same time as the Fringe this year.
5. Winnipeg makes it easy for new Fringers to get in on the action.
In Winnipeg, if you want to see a show, you walk up, buy a ticket, and you're in. We take this idea for granted, but it's a luxury. Some other festivals - like Ottawa's and London's - require Fringers to buy a low-cost button before they can buy tickets to a show. This is an economic necessity for those festivals to raise operating funds. Luckily for Winnipeggers, our Fringe's operating funds come from the host theatre company - MTC.
Joff Schmidt, CBC Theatre Reviewer